Super Tasty, Traditional, Homemade Cottage Pie

This super tasty, traditional, homemade cottage pie recipe is all about keeping it nice and simple. It takes the meaty English classic and serves it authentically and elegantly.

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English food has a terrible reputation. And it’s hard to argue with why.

We’re seen as the homeland to a whole host of offal dishes, sloppy pies and blood pudding. The creators of jellied eels, mushy peas and tripe.

It’s not hard to see why we get a bad rap sometimes.

But those of us who live here and many who visit, learn that those dishes are rarely as awful as they sound. I would even argue that some of them can be pretty damned delicious.

For example, black pudding might sound like an affront to any good, law-abiding member of society, but when you taste it, the crispy crunch, the burst of savoury flavour, the satisfying fatty bite and chewy texture … they just make sense.


Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t sometimes focus on the British dishes that aren’t quite so unapproachable.

After all, despite our poor reputation, we are known to have a few pretty solid dishes to our name.

Like the humble scotch egg, a strange, inexplicable culinary victory. Or fish and chips, the would-be national dish if not for our self-effacing decision to adapt an Indian dish to fill that role instead.

And of course, in time, they will come. But for now, we will focus on one of the dishes I remember best from my childhood. The Cottage Pie.

About the dish

The first thing to clarify when it comes to traditional cottage pie is the meat used in the dish. It’s a commonly held misnomer that the dish can be made with either beef or lamb.

The truth is that a traditional cottage pie can only ever be made with beef. To make it with lamb would mean you had made a Shepherd’s Pie and to make it with any other type of minced meat would mean a variation on one of the two.

Both dishes, aside from that are effectively identical. But it absolutely makes a difference.


In its simplest sense, the dish is a minced beef pie, topped with mashed potato and baked.

Any number of additions can be made to the dish. It can be topped with cheese, as in this recipe, or with breadcrumbs.

The contents of the dish can vary from recipe to recipe. In this one, we’ll be using a standard carrot, celery and onion mirepoix as the base, with just a little garlic for flavour.

In others, however, you might find big chunks of carrot, intended as part of the dish. Or you may even find peas, mushrooms or otherwise.

In most, you’ll find a sauce made from stock and Worcestershire sauce. In others, tomato puree or even chopped tomatoes.

A quick guide – Super Tasty, Traditional, Homemade Cottage Pie

We’ll start off by chopping up our vegetables to make the mirepoix. We will peel and finely dice half an onion, 2 sticks celery and 1 medium sized carrot, as well as a little garlic.

We’ll also peel our potatoes and dice them into fairly small pieces. You won’t be biting them, but bitesize pieces will probably suffice.

Simmer those potatoes until they soften, then drain the water, add salt and butter and mash, then set aside.

Grate a little cheese, enough to sit on top, and set that aside too.

We’ll start to cook by frying off the base vegetables for a few minutes in a medium pan with some oil and salt. Sweat them off until they begin to soften and glisten.


Then increase the heat just a little and add the mince. Stir everything together and brown the mince all over.

At this stage, you can add tomato paste if you like, but I’m going to skip that and go straight for some Worcestershire sauce. I like the richness and tang of the meal without the sweetness of tomato.

We’re now going to add some stock, thyme and a bay leaf and allow it all to cook down gently. Once it’s reduced to a simple sauce, just thick enough to coat the meat, you can add a splash of vinegar and tweak the seasoning, if you so need.

Next, we’ll add a good crack of black pepper and stir it in, then three quarter fill a small, ovenproof bowl with the mince, topping it with mashed potato.

Add some of the grated cheese to the top and place it under the grill for a few minutes, until the cheese melts and begins to crisp up on top.

A few final things to remember

  • The cheese is an optional extra. It isn’t strictly added to cottage pie. But I think it’s a very suitable accompaniment and very much warranted. But I’ll leave that up to you!
  • I like the look of a neatly flattened top to the mash. Part of the reason I’ve added cheese is because the cheese helps to provide texture. Alternatively, you could pipe the mash on, if you have access to a piping back, or simply scratch the top all over with a fork. Doing so creates little ridges that will crisp up under the intense heat of the grill.
  • If you don’t want to do that, breadcrumbs will also work.
  • You can add all kinds of things to a cottage pie. Some add other herbs, others wine. I’ve even known some to include chillies. It’s totally your call.

Similar Recipes & Useful Sides

Easy Pork & Sausage Cassoulet – Another wonderful stew right here. This time with pork, sausage and beans.

Delicious, Fruit Moroccan Lamb Stew – A Morrocan dish this time. A lovely, fruity lamb stew in the style of a traditional tagine!

The Easiest, Tastiest Beef & Ale Casserole – And all the way back to beef! This time with ale, rather than red wine.

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Super Tasty, Traditional, Homemade Cottage Pie

Super Tasty, Traditional, Homemade Cottage Pie

Ed Chef
This super tasty, traditional, homemade cottage pie recipe is all about keeping it nice and simple. It takes the meaty English classic and serves it authentically and elegantly.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Course Dinner, main, Main Course
Cuisine English
Servings 2


  • 400 g Beef Mince
  • 1/2 White Onion
  • 2 sticks Celery
  • 1 lrg Carrot
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 3 lrg Potatoes
  • Thyme
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Vinegar red wine vinegar would be a good choice, but any would do – optional anyway
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Butter
  • Cheese something well suited to melting – Cheddar or Gruyere, for example
  • 300 ml Stock chicken or beef


  • Peel the potatoes and dice into small-medium pieces, then simmer in water until they soften enough to mash. Once they’re there, add a good dollop of butter and season with salt, then mix together and set aside.
  • Peel the onion, garlic and carrots, then finely dice them, along with the celery, and cook them in a large saucepan at a medium heat for 6 – 8 minutes or until they soften and begin to glisten. You’ll want to season them a little as they cool as the salt will help to draw out the moisture.
  • Add the mince and turn up the heat a little, to medium-high. Season further if required and stir together, then brown all of the mince and add a bay leaf and a bouquet garni made from thyme (a few sprigs of thyme tied together).
  • Cook a little further, continuing to stir to help distribute the flavour, then add some Worcestershire sauce and cook through for just a couple of minutes. Add the stock and simmer down until it thickens and forms a sauce that coats the meat, then, if desired, add a splash of vinegar, some black pepper and any additional necessary salt.
  • 3/4 fill an ovenproof bowl with the mince and then spoon mashed potato over the top, either smoothing out the top or purposefully creating ridges and crevices to crisp up in the heat.
  • If desired, grate some cheese over the top and place under a grill at 200c until either the top browns suitably or until the cheese has melted and crisped up.
Keyword beef, cottage pie, homemade cottact pie, tasty cottage pie, traditional cottage pie

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